emotions

"Food Holidays"

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While there are a lot of things to love about this time for year (I, for one, get really excited about all the lights), I get so sick of magazines running the same regurgitated story about how to avoid gaining weight during the holidays. How did Thanksgiving come to be such a drama?

Someone asked me the other day what I see myself doing with my degree, and the first thing that came out of my mouth was that I see myself serving as a sort of marriage counselor for America and Food. Of course, what I learn in school and will continue to learn is how to get both parties on the couch as well as how to facilitate an open, constructive discussion.

I have always gotten annoyed by all the hoopla around “Food Holidays” like Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s not the whole “let’s celebrate by slaughtering a big bird and gathering around it” thing that bothers me because I can appreciate the tribal element, even if it’s not my scene. What I’m talking about is the emotional stakes and the anxiety surrounding the meal. Dealing with your family is stressful enough for a lot of us!

I am of the belief that a lot of people who feel they have problems “controlling” themselves at such events feel that way because they’ve been told they have problems with self-control around food and therefore they need to buy this or that magazine so it can tell them how to reign it in and stay in line like a “good” girl (or boy). If a publication tells you you’re an emotional eater, you’re more likely to subscribe to that idea and incorporate it into your behavior. Power of suggestion.

Of course, this is just a theory. I am one of the (supposedly) freakish few people who are not emotional eaters—I have the opposite issue, which can be just as problematic. For example, I’ve been told that whenever I’m upset, as a woman, of course I always reach for my pals Ben and Jerry. I do? I mean, is that what I’m supposed to do? Am I somehow less of a woman because I prefer to throw a pillow across the room or go to a yoga class? And I’ll admit, at times, I feel a little out of the cultural loop. I can observe and speculate but I don’t know if I can ever truly understand. I just see what I see and it makes me crazy.

Whatever happened to just enjoying a meal and the company at the table? Why does food have to be the enemy? We seem to have forgotten that food is nourishment, one the basic things we need to stay alive. I hate hearing people talk about guilty they feel for eating a certain item or how “bad” they are for having a slice of pie or a piece of cake. I’m always tempted to say, “Well, I’m not.” Actually, what I’m really tempted to say is, “How guilty you feel is your choice. Spare me.”

Don’t get me wrong, I do like Thanksgiving food okay, but to me, it’s simply a nice meal someone put a lot of care into making, and like at any other meal, the foods I place on my plate are placed there to give me energy and the nutrients I need in balanced proportions, not sabotage my life…

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Emotional Ties

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Our media focuses so much on emotional eating (comfort foods, anyone?) yet rarely examines emotional “not-eating.” Some people lose their appetite when stressed out or may (consciously or not) limit their intake when other areas of their life are weighing on them. 
Another thing not often discussed, given the subjectivity of the topic, is the way some of us avoid certain foods with which we have negative associations. While many people have foods they turn to to make themselves feel good, many of us avoid and/or refuse to eat certain foods with which we have negative associations. 
I think there are varying degrees to which this avoidance affects someone’s life, but regardless, I wish there was more info out there about it. So many times, I pick up a magazine or read a website, only to see yet another article about how to create a strategy or deal with the temptation to eat to make yourself feel better. Um, what about for people who have the opposite problem? 
Personally, I just don’t think it’s fair. Still, the $40 billion weight loss industry is pretty damn healthy, and the magazines know where their ad money comes from. It keeps things running to go on feeding that machine rather than take a step to the side and address some other related issues. 
While I do find a lot of information about weight loss interesting (especially the different ways in which publications regurgitate the same few studies every month/week/etc), it’s, like, “Hello! Not everyone is trying to lose weight!” 
Whether you’re trying to lose weight or not, exploring your emotional connections to food can be incredibly valuable and helpful, though I guess it probably goes without saying that it’s best to delve into that with a therapist or trusted confidant rather than read about it in Glamour or Shape